Taylor Swift is one of the most celebrated American pop musicians ever.
She’s sold millions of albums worldwide, broken streaming records, and played sold-out stadium tours pretty much everywhere. All the while, she’s been able to maintain a quiet private life and gain the respect of big music critics.
How did Taylor Swift become famous? She started out in the world of country as a teenager, then made the ambitious jump to worldwide pop phenomenon; but how?
In this post, we’re going to take a deep-dive into Taylor’s career timeline. Fame like this doesn’t happen by accident; it takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and a universal appeal that not many people have.
If you don’t love Taylor Swift, turn back now.
Taylor Swift was born at the end of 1989 in Reading, Pennsylvania to a stockbroker father and homemaker mother. As she grew up, she showed interest in music and musical theatre, eventually learning the guitar at the age of 12.
By the time she was 14, Taylor’s growing interest in country music, coupled with her obvious musical talent and penchant for theatrics made it clear that a move was needed.
After Taylor received an RCA development deal, her family relocated to a town outside of Nashville called Hendersonville. There, she would become well-connected with people on music row, going for daily writing sessions with professional songwriters.
In 2006, her self-titled debut record came out with its lead single, “Tim McGraw”. Today, that album has sold nearly 8 million copies and remains a pop-country classic. This was Taylor’s first taste of fame and it only grew exponentially from there.
Her songs were effortlessly going straight to number 1 on the country charts, her dating life was daily reading in the tabloids, and she was routinely invited to perform and act on TV. By the time her fourth album, Red, came out, she was undeniably the biggest star in country music.
Taylor would spend the 8 years between her first album and the end of Red‘s touring schedule growing as an artist and completely dominating the country charts. She was a massive star by country music standards, but it was obvious that this same star power would translate well to the pop world.
By 2014, it was time for a change of scenery for her and her career.
How Did Taylor Swift Become Famous?
As a seasoned vet of the Nashville country music world, Taylor decided to make a move to New York City to work with the acclaimed pop producer, Jack Antonoff, on her fifth studio album. 1989 would be Taylor’s first real foray into the world of pop music.
Alongside some of the biggest and best songwriters in American pop music (Max Martin, Ryan Tedder, etc.), she would write some of her most self-conscious and important material yet to make up the 13 songs on the album. The first single would be the drum and bass-driven track, “Shake It Off”.
“Shake It Off” would debut at number 1 on the Billboard charts, vindicating Taylor’s decision to leave country music behind. In the few years following the release of 1989, it would go on to sell over 10 million copies, making it Taylor Swift’s most successful album and one of the biggest albums of the century.
The album would generate two additional number 1 singles in “Bad Blood” and “Blank Space”; “Style” and “Wildest Dreams” would also enter the top 10. She would be nominated for countless awards for her work on the album, leaving no doubt that she was the biggest and most acclaimed singer-songwriter in America.
With all of this success came additional fame. Not only was she fodder for tabloids and online scrutiny, as she had been since she was a teenager, but she’d also become one of the biggest musical icons in the world. In 2017, she would release her follow-up to 1989.
Reputation was an obvious response to the attention, both positive and negative, that she’d received in the previous three years. This was well illustrated in the first single, “Look What You Made Me Do”.
Although it lacked the pop sensibility of 1989, it would sell 2 million copies in the first week. This would make Tay the only artist to ever have four albums sell at least a million copies in the first week. Another record in a career full of records.
Where Will It Go From Here?
Having released her seventh studio album, Lover, earlier this year, Taylor continues to pump out solid pop songs that are universally loved. Where her career goes from here is completely up to her.
Swift has been able to stay at the top of the music world for a dozen years because she can reinvent herself. This doesn’t always work for musicians, but when you’ve got the taste and talent of Taylor Swift, it’s always possible.